Character Progression

As is normal for the end of any session, players are always interested in the amount of experience points they have earned. And why wouldn’t they be? They’ve just spent the better part of the night in character and it’s only natural they should want some sort of reward. In Legend of the Five Rings players will advance in up to four ways.

Rather than handing out increases to Experience, Honor, Status, and Glory at the end of a session. They will be posted in the Adventure Log for that session the following day by character.


The oldest form of advancement, experience represents exactly what it implies: the things your character experiences throughout the course of a session. These points are then spent to raise skills and traits, purchase Advantages and buy off disadvantages, among other things. In The Way I will be standardizing the amount of XP that can be earned per session, both to guide advancement at a manageable speed and to give you a guideline and a benchmark to try and achieve each session. The maximum number of experience points a given player can earn in a session is 8, broken down in the following chunks:

  • Every player earns 2 experience points for showing up to the session. Congratulations! You’ve successfully occupied space.
  • The group will receive anywhere from 1 to 3 experience for in game accomplishments, with 1 point awarded for sessions in which the players are not particularly productive and 3 points awarded for sessions in which the players are very on the ball or solve the problems in creative and interesting ways. This amount will be the same for everyone.
  • An individual player can earn from 1 to 3 experience for good role-playing. Good role-playing your character’s sense of bushido even if it’s to your detriment, creating artwork for the game when your character would, and basically anything else under the sun that allows you to step outside of yourself for a bit. This number will vary from player to player.

For advice on how to spend experience points, read the book. The Price of Experience might also be helpful.

Honor, Glory, and Status

Players are also rewarded in points of Honor, Glory and Status.

Honor primarily reflects how an individual samurai rates his personal ability to adhere to the tenets of Bushido and fulfill the duties assigned to him by his lord. While Honor is primarily internal, there is an external component to it as well, as a samurai’s Honor greatly impacts how he carries himself and thus how others perceive him. Honor Ranks can be roughly described as follows:

Those individuals with Honor Ranks 0 or 1 do not adhere to or even recognize the tenets of Bushido, and mock those who are restricted by such an antiquated code of conduct. Individuals of this sort cannot be trusted, and value only their own interests and well-being at the expense of anyone and anything else. Criminals fall into this category.

While characters of Honor Ranks 2 and 3 are not particularly honorable, they at least pay lip service to the concept and make a marginal effort to uphold principles under certain circumstances. Perhaps this is a vestige of the individual’s upbringing, or perhaps he only wants to avoid completely dishonoring his clan or lord through his actions. Still, the most important thing to a man of this caliber is himself, and very little can convince him otherwise.

Characters of Honor Ranks 4 and 5 are the standard against which most others are measured. Such samurai make an effort every day to adhere to the tenets of Bushido and to bring honor and glory to their families and clans. Still, they are human and flawed individuals. As such they fall short of their potential on occasion, but not so much that they spiral downward into shame and disappointment.

A samurai of Honor Ranks 6 or 7 understands the strength inherent in the code of Bushido. Such a man still feels the temptations to which lower-Honor characters succumb, but he is capable of resisting them through conviction and strength of will. These samurai may occasionally abandon virtue in the name of practicality, but such things are the exception rather than the rule.

Samurai of Honor Ranks 8 and 9 are rare individuals who have managed to put aside their personal feelings and concerns, replacing them with zeal for duty and Bushido. To some, these men and women are paragons of virtue who are to be respected and admired, while to others, they are rigid and infl exible disciplinarians unwilling to deviate even slightly from their own intractable code of conduct.

Perhaps one soul in ten thousand reaches Honor Rank 10, and represents the greatest and most virtuous heroes of an entire Empire. Such an individual is virtually beyond reproach save from the highest ranks of the Imperial bureaucracy. Individuals of this caliber are completely selfless, devoted to their lord, clan, and Emperor, and exhibit virtue in every action.

A character gains and loses Honor depending upon his actions. An honorable character who commits dishonorable acts will find his Honor Rank reduced over time. Conversely, a character with a low Honor Rank who commits honorable acts will find his Honor Rank increasing accordingly. The amount of Honor gained or lost by any particular action, however, depends upon how honorable the character committing the act is. A character of Honor Rank 10, for instance, will gain less Honor for showing courtesy for his enemies because that is expected, whereas a character of Honor Rank 2 would gain proportionately more Honor because such a thing is a rare instance of that person doing what is expected of them.

The chart here represents typical Honor awards and penalties for notable actions at the various Honor ranks. How these awards and penalties should happen in play is the choice of the GM. Some GMs may wish to simply follow the chart and allow Honor gains and losses automatically, but other GMs may wish to exercise more control and make specific Honor awards and penalties based on the guidelines of this chart. This is ultimately a matter for the GM to decide, preferably in consultation with the players.

Honor Gains/Losses by Honor Rank

Act 0 1-2 3-4 5-6 7-8 9-10
Accepting a bribe 0 0 -3 -4 -6 -8
Accepting responsibility for a superior’s shameful action 8 7 6 4 3 3
Acknowledging a superior opponent 5 4 4 2 2 0
Aiding a wounded enemy 9 8 6 6 5 3
Being an accomplice to a heinous crime -1 -4 -8 -12 -16 -20
Being an accomplice to a minor crime 0 -1 -4 -4 -8 -8
Breach of etiquette, blasphemous -1 -6 -10 -10 -16 -20
Breach of etiquette, major 0 -2 -2 -2 -6 -6
Breach of etiquette, minor 0 0 -1 -2 -2 -2
Disloyalty to lord, spouse, or superior 0 -2 -6 -10 -14 -18
Duped into performing a criminal act -1 -4 -8 -12 -16 -18
Duped into performing a disloyal act 0 -2 -4 -6 -10 -14
Duped into performing a foolish act 0 -2 -4 -4 -6 -8
Disobeying a lord’s command 0 -2 -2 -6 -6 -10
Enduring an insult to your ancestors 0 -2 -4 -4 -6 -8
Enduring an insult to yourself 2 2 2 0 0 0
Enduring an insult to your family or clan 0 0 -2 -2 -4 -4
Facing a superior foe in the name of your family 8 6 5 4 3 2
Fleeing from battle 0 -2 -4 -6 -8 -10
Following orders despite personal misgivings 6 4 0 0 -2 -4
Giving a truthful report at your own expense 8 6 4 2 0 0
Lying to bolster your reputation 0 -2 -4 -6 -8 -10
Manipulating another into dishonorable behavior 0 -2 -4 -6 -8 -10
Politely ignoring another’s dishonorable behavior 0 -2 -4 -6 -8 -10
Protecting your clan/family/lord’s interest despite great risk to yourself 8 8 6 6 4 2
Showing kindness to one beneath your station 6 6 4 4 2 2
Showing sincere courtesy to enemies or rivals 9 7 5 2 0 0
Using a Low Skill 0 -1 -2 -3 -6 -9
Using false courtesy to gain advantage over an enemy 0 0 -2 -6 -10 -10

One of the greatest benefits of having a high Honor Rank is that characters can rely upon their Honor to aid them in resisting temptations or manipulations that a true samurai should turn aside easily. Characters add their Honor Rank to the total of any roll made to resist uses of the Intimidation and Temptation Skills, as well as to all rolls to resist Fear effects of any kind.

Samurai who have a high Honor Rank conduct themselves in such a manner that their nature is obvious to those who pay close attention. Any character may attempt to discern the Honor Rank of another person by making a Lore: Bushido / Awareness roll (TN 30). If the roll is successful, the person making the roll can discern the Honor Rank of the samurai being evaluated.

Some GMs may wish to offer more concrete rewards and incentives to characters who maintain a high Honor Rank. This may be done by introducing the concept of an Honor Roll into the game. An Honor Roll allows a character to call upon his Honor once per game session to try to succeed at something he would otherwise fail. After a character fails a Skill, Trait, Ring, or Spell Casting roll, he may opt to re-roll the attempt at the same TN, but using his Honor Rank in rolled and kept dice in place of the original dice. (For example, a character of Honor Rank 6 fails an attack roll and decides to call on his Honor to re-roll. His normal attack roll is 7k4, but he now re-rolls with 6k6, since his Honor Rank is 6.) If the second roll succeeds, the character successfully performs the action. However, if it fails, not only does the character fail the original action but he also loses a full Rank (ten Points) of Honor as his faith in his own capabilities is shaken. The GM should exercise caution in deciding whether to use the Honor Roll rule in his game. Although it does create an incentive for characters to follow the path of Bushido, it also creates the potential of tilting the game heavily in favor of high-honor characters, allowing them to succeed with nearcertainty once per session. GMs should carefully consider whether they wish to allow this option.

Glory is a measure of an individual’s fame throughout the Empire as a result of personal accomplishments. Unlike Honor and Status, Glory is a very fluid attribute and can vary wildly from the results of a single duel, skirmish, or battle. Individuals who participate in sensational events, such as military officers or duelists, are more prone to having a high Glory, while mild-mannered or unobtrusive individuals, such as scholars or scribes, are far less likely to be recognized. Surprisingly, socially high-ranking individuals such as the Emperor or the daimyo of the Imperial families have a relatively low Glory, because they are so unlikely to be recognized when outside of the trappings of their positions and unaccompanied by their retinue. There are few in the Empire, after all, who would recognize the Emperor if he were traveling in simple clothes without his legion of bodyguards and attendants. Glory is a measure of fame, not prestige, and those who have lower Glory than a samurai are in no way obligated to obey him. They are expected to show him the proper respect for one of his reputation, however, and failure to do so can result in a legitimate reason for a duel or other unpleasant outcomes.

Gaining and losing Glory can be done in a variety of ways, all based upon a samurai’s actions and what ramifications his actions have on his reputation in the Empire at large. Glory gains and losses are largely out of an individual’s control, as Glory grows or diminishes as a result of others speaking of their exploits. Much as with Honor, it is the decision of the GM whether Glory changes should be “automatic” or not.

The higher a samurai’s Glory Rank, the greater the probability he will be recognized when he encounters people he has not met before. Whenever this happens, the GM can make a Lore: Heraldry / Intelligence roll for the strangers against TN 50. This TN is reduced by an amount equal to the samurai’s current Glory Rank x 5. If the roll is successful, the strangers recognize the samurai and respond appropriately.

Gaining & Losing Glory

Event Effect
Acknowledgement Publicly acknowledge by someone of Status 7+, gain 1 Rank
Blood Feud Avenging a feud gains Glory equal to opponent’s Status or Glory (lower of two)
Caught in a Lie Lose double the Glory gained by act about which the samurai lied
Completing a Quest Gain Glory points = half the Glory Rank of the individual issuing the quest
Craftsmanship Gain one Glory point for each Raise made when creating an item
Defeat Officer who loses a battle/duelist who loses a duel (loses opponent’s Glory)
Duels Winning a fair duel gains Glory points equal to 1/3 opponent’s Status/Glory
Family Dishonor Lose one Glory Rank if a close relative commits an act worthy of seppuku
Gifts Gain Glory equal to Glory/Status if given a give by a higher ranking samurai
Idleness Lose on Glory point for every week without any Glory gain
Indifference Being ignored for prior bad behavior, reduce all Glory gains by 1, increase losses by 2
Immortality Inspiration for a work of art, gain Glory points = Glory rank of most prominent admirer
Learning Gain one Glory Rank when gaining an Insight Rank
Marriage Increase Glory rank of lower-Glory spouse to one less than higher-Glory spouse
Public Bragging After gaining Glory, you may gain 1 additional point through public bragging
Romance One point of Glory for public declaration of love (without identifying lover)
Skirmishes Gain one point of glory for defeating bandits, ronin, etc.
Status Gain Glory equal to the amount of Status gained
Stealing Credit Gain the amount of Glory normally gained for the act being usurped
Warfare Gain 3 points Glory for surviving a battle, 6 if on the winning side

Rokugan is a feudal society, and Status is the measure of an individual’s role and influence within that society. Those with higher Status command more resources, authority, and wealth, while those with low Status have little authority over anything, perhaps even their own lives. Status is a largely static attribute that changes infrequently. Generally speaking, the only way for a character to increase their Status is to gain appointments or promotions from someone who is higher ranking in the hierarchy of their family, Clan, or the Imperial bureaucracy.

Status may only be gained by the formal promotion of a samurai by his lord or another higher ranking individual. This is traditionally done in recognition of glorious service, although political appointments are also a source for such things. Losing Status is less common, and is done by the same sort of individuals, but as punishment for some sort of failure, typically a failure of duty. There is little that can be done in such cases, although in the instance of an unfair demotion, a samurai can conceivably protest his demotion to a figure of greater authority who holds influence over the individual who performed the demotion in the fi rst place. If a demotion is found to be unjust, it results in a restoration of the wronged party’s Status and a loss of Honor for the individual who performed the unjust act in the first place. However, an inappropriate protest typically results in even more severe punishment for
the protesting samurai.

Status grants a samurai authority over other samurai of lower Status, but only if those samurai exist within the same hierarchy. A Lion samurai with Status 3, for instance, still cannot issue commands to a Mantis samurai with Status 2 unless the two of them are members of the same military organization or a comparable social order of some sort; otherwise the Lion simply has no authority over the Mantis. On the other hand, a Lion of Status 3 can usually issue orders to another Lion of Status 2. Samurai must always be careful in doing so, however, and make sure they do not interrupt or countermand the orders of a different samurai with an even greater Status than their own. Countermanding a superior results in lost Honor and possibly a loss of Status as well.

Monks occupy a unique position in the social order of the Emerald Empire. While they are respected for their wisdom and their devotion to the Tao of Shinsei, they have no true place in samurai society. Monks are considered to have a Status of 1 and a Glory of 0. Monks may gain both Glory and Status, but only gain half the amount of Glory that would normally be awarded to an individual of the samurai caste.

Character Progression

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